Going keto doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice those weekend restaurant evenings or that you can’t grab something from your favorite fast food restaurant when you’re out and about. With a little forethought and some slight adjustments, you can partake of the joy of eating out while still staying true to your keto principles.

In this article, we’ll provide you with tips, hacks and advice on eating out on keto. We’ll also provide specific advice on the most popular restaurant chains to make your life even easier.

The Eating Out Challenge

You have made some massive changes in how you think about food. Your home is now a haven, full of healthy nutritious carb free fare that you know is making your body better.

You have taken control of your environment.

But what happens when you step outside of your environment?
Suddenly you are no longer in control!

You find yourself in the midst of unhealthy food choices and companions who, often, don’t have the same level of concern as you about what they put into their body.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay on track while you’re out and about . . .

Tip #1: Pack Healthy Snacks

When you’re out and about, get into the habit of taking some healthy snacks with you. A quick snack can take the edge off your hunger, which will steer you away from that fast food restaurant. And, even, if you do still go to the restaurant, having a snack first will prevent you from filling up on bread, chips or salted peanuts.

Buying a shaker bottle is a great investment in this regard. For less than ten bucks, you will have a handy device that allows you to shake up a protein drink on the go.

Many shaker bottles have a compartment in the lid or base where you can store your protein powder. You can use the shaker as a water bottle when you’re out and about. Then, when you’re in need of a quick meal, simply drop in your powder and give it a quick shake.

When you’re traveling you never really know what sort of eating options you will encounter. Having healthy snacks and a protein shake ready to go can be a lifesaver when there’s nothing healthy around.

Carrying a zip-lock bag full of walnuts, almonds and cashew nuts is always a good option. You can also pack a couple of hard boiled eggs to provide an extremely filling, protein packed snack.

Tip #2: Decode the Menu

The first thing you should do when you sit down at a restaurant is to scan the menu. Rather than looking at the meals, focus on the ingredients. Often you will find great vegetarian entrée options that lack a quality protein source.

You can ask the waiter if they can add some protein, for example, grilled chicken pieces. Adding this to a vegetable entrée can make a very healthy meal.

You will notice that every meal has a particular set-up consisting of a protein source and a starchy, or fibrous carb side. You have the freedom to swap sides around with different entrée items. You will want to get rid of the starches and replace them with a salad of cruciferous vegetable dish.

Look first for the protein source that you are going to have with your meal. If you find a meal that has a good protein source but you don’t like what comes with it, ask to swap out the offending foods with something else from the menu.

Remember that the menu is not – or should not be – set in concrete. You are paying good money for your meal, and have the right to get just what you want.

If your meal comes with a heavy dressing, ask to swap it out with some fresh lemon. You can also ask to swap out cheese for avocado. Just be aware that you’ll have to pay a little more for the privilege.

Tip #3: Be Nice

Of course, we should always be nice, but showing consideration for the wait staff is especially important. The last thing they need is a pushy, belligerent health nut making demands on every menu item. So, don’t be that person.

Show kindness and empathy toward the waiter and that person will become your ally. Tell him or her that you are working hard to stick to a clean eating plan. You’ll probably find that they will make suggestions to help you out.

With keto being so popular, it’s quite likely that the wait staff have encountered keto followers before.

So, tell them that you’re trying to stick to the keto diet and they are likely to become your ally.

Tip #4: Consider Entrees

Restaurant meal portion sizes are generally way too large. It is far healthier to eat smaller, more frequent meals. It is very easy for a trip to the local restaurant to blow out your calorie count, even if the food choices are spot on.

Consider smaller portion sizes, such as those found on the entrée section of the menu. You may even find that a child’s meal may be perfectly suitable, so long as you can find some decent options, with kid’s menu items being generally deplorable!

If you are dining with another person, consider splitting a main meal. It will keep you within your calorie count and be easier on your budget.

Tip #5: Nix the Soda

Often the biggest sugar content when eating out comes, not from the food, but from the beverages. That is why you need to stick with water or iced tea. Do not order a soda. It’s tough to get a carbonated beverage that doesn’t have a ton of sugar and additives. If you want a little more flavor to your water, get a side of fruit and infuse your water.

Tip #6: Stay Focused

Eating out can be a welcome and exciting experience. At home you are used to eating a simple menu.

At a restaurant, however, you are suddenly confronted with an array of choices. It is easy to get caught up in that excitement and try things that you normally wouldn’t have access to. This is especially so if you are eating at a buffet restaurant.

That is why it is important to stay focused on your body and what it needs. Every time you eat, you have an opportunity to either make your body better or to make worse. This is as true at a restaurant as it is anywhere else.

Tip #7: Do Your Research

When you’re traveling, take the extra effort to do your research beforehand – or as soon as you get there. Jump onto Google and find out what restaurants are in the area. Most of them will have websites featuring their menu. This allows you find out exactly what they have to offer.

Researching your restaurant options before getting to your destination will mean that you’re not flying blind – you’ll have a plan that will allow you to stay on track.

As soon as you find a place that is suitable stop looking. Use it as your go-to restaurant for the rest of your trip and then get on with enjoying your trip.

Tip #8: Pick Your Restaurant Type

There are certain types of restaurants that are going to be more keto friendly than others. You’ll obviously want to steer away from Italian and Chinese, which will have you negotiating your way around past and rice dishes. Here are four smarter options . . .

  • Steakhouses
  • Middle Eastern
  • Seafood Restaurants
  • BBQ Restaurants

Tip #9: Ask Questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions of your waiter. Here are some key ones . . .

  • Is the seafood, fish or meat breaded?
  • Does the dish come with sauces or toppings? Can they be included on the side so that you can add them at will?
  • Can you switch starchy dishes to steamy vegetables?
  • Can you have macadamia, coconut or olive oil dressing?

Tip #10: Add Healthy Fats

Most restaurant meals are low in fat. You need to be proactive to overcome this by asking for added fats. Request extra butter on your vegetables or meat. Ask for more macadamia, coconut or olive oil and drizzle it liberally over your salads. To avoid having to put up with omega-6 cheap vegetable oils that many restaurants use, you may want to carry your own high-quality omega-3 oil with you. Finally, request heavy cream to be added to your coffee or tea.

Restaurant Cheat Sheet

American

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Steak + steamed asparagus + shrimp cocktails
  • Roast chicken + steamed broccoli + green salad
  • Steak skewers + steamed vegetables
  • Burgers without the bun

Italian

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Cold cuts + basic house salad with light vinaigrette + steamed mussels
  • Basic house salad with light vinaigrette + grilled calamari
  • Veal / chicken / fish dishes (make sure they are not breaded)

Indian

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Tandoori chicken + vegetable kabobs
  • Vegetable kabobs + dahl (lentil stew)

Asian

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Plain roasted duck meat + garlic snap peas + spring onions
  • Stir fries (check tht there is no added sugar in the sauce?)
  • Chicken korma
    Rib or meat soups

Mediterranean

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Kebab or gyro meat + basic Greek salad (tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, green bell pepper – easy on the Feta and dressing) + hummus
  • Basic Greek salad + chicken satay
  • Meatballs (make sure they are not breaded)
  • Grilled fish + seafood + various salads

Mexican

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Burrito bowl + salsa + black bean soup
  • Grilled seafood + fajita-style vegetables – fajita-style chicken or steak
  • Guacamole / ceviche / carne asada / chile verde

Grills / Pubs

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Steak + vegetables / salad
  • Grilled chicken
  • Pork chops
  • Grilled salmon

French

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Chicken provencal
  • Various salads
  • Duck confit
  • Steak tartar
  • Charcuterie platter
  • Steaks

Spanish

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Gambas al Ajillo – Garlic Shrimp
  • Jamon / Chorizo
  • Olives / Anchovies

Thai

(suggested menu items to mix ‘m match)

  • Coconut curries (no rice)
  • Tom Yum / Thom Ka soups
  • Beef / chicken / duck / fish larb

Keto Fast Food Restaurant Guide

McDonalds

Order this:

  • Breakfast sandwich (no bun)
  • Chicken burger (no bun)

Avoid this:

  • Chicken nuggets (they are coated in bread)

Taco Bell

Order this:

  • Meat taco (toss the shell) + guacamole
  • Power menu bowl

Avoid this:

  • Quesadillas
  • Burritos

KFC

Order this:

  • Grilled chicken
  • Caesar Salad – no croutons

Avoid this:

  • Breaded chicken
  • Sandwiches

Pizza Hutt / Donimoes

Order this:

  • Chicken wings

Avoid this:

  • Pizza

Subway

Order this:

  • Chicken salad

Avoid this:

  • Bread

Eating Out at a Buffet Restaurant

When you are eating at a Buffet restaurant it’s all about the mindset. Don’t head to the table thinking that you’ve got to get your money’s worth. Think about eating for health and pleasure. Then remember the things that must end up on your plate – grains, potatoes and sugar.

Focus on putting fats, vegetables and protein on your plate. That means heading to the salad bar, carving stations, seafood platters and vegetable serveries. In terms of healthy fats, look out for olive oil, butter, sour cream and cheese.

Resist the temptation to overfill your plate. You should walk away with about the same amount that you’d eat at a typical meal at home. If you can’t decide from all the variety, just have very small portions of each dish. Remember, you can always go back if you are still hungry afterwards.

Drink water with your meal and take your time to enjoy your meal.

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